(CN) – A convenience store cashier who was sexually assaulted and robbed at gunpoint can sue the lead detective for locking her up for five days and accusing her of lying to cover up the theft, the 3rd Circuit ruled.
The federal appeals court in Philadelphia reinstated the victim’s Fourth Amendment claims against Cranberry, Pa., detective Frank Evanson, who had the woman arrested six months after she reported the assault and just three months after he became the lead investigator of a “substantially similar” sexual attack believed to be linked to a serial rapist.
The rapist in the second case eventually admitted that he also assaulted the cashier, then 19, and forced her to perform oral sex at gunpoint.
The cashier had immediately called police and reported the assault as soon as her attacker left the store.
While she was still in the hospital for her rape exam, she claims Evanson asked her how many times she did “dope” that day, called her a liar and repeatedly accused her of stealing money from the store.
She says the detective had the hospital perform additional drug tests on her blood samples to see if she was under the influence.
Her account of the attack remained consistent with each telling, and her description of the assailant matched the serial rapist suspected of attacking another woman three months later – the only other sexual attack in Cranberry Township in 2004.
She sued Evanson, fellow Cranberry officer Kevin Meyer and public safety director Steven Mannell for allegedly violating her constitutional rights against illegal search and seizure.
She said the toxicology screening on her blood samples constituted an illegal search, because it was performed without her knowledge and consent.
Judge Kent Jordan disagreed with the lower court’s finding that Evanson had probable cause to arrest the cashier.
Viewing the facts in her favor, the court concluded that “no reasonably competent officer could have concluded … that there was probable cause for the arrest.”
The court said her Fourth Amendment and related claims against Evanson should go to a jury.
The three-judge panel also upheld the dismissal of all her claims against Mannell and Meyer.